Wayne Rooney has revealed he is such a big fan of Diego Costa he voted for the striker to be PFA Player of the Year last season.
Costa is in line to lead the Spain attack in Alicante on Friday evening, when an England side shorn of rested captain Rooney will provide the opposition.
The striker’s 20 league goals helped Chelsea to the Premier League title in his first season, but he has managed just three in all competitions this term and was banned last month for an off-the-ball incident against Arsenal.
A weekend clash with Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross saw Costa’s behaviour scrutinised again but Rooney, who has been forced to defend his own aggressive style over the years, says it is pointless asking Costa to change.
“I actually voted for him as player of the year last season because I think he was a huge player for Chelsea,” said Rooney, one of only two players sent off twice in England games.
“I think what Chelsea missed the season before was that fight up front and he gave them that and I strongly believe that’s why they became champions. Obviously it hasn’t gone as well as it did last season for him but I think he is a fantastic player.
“He’s a fighter and I think that’s part of his game, and it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to ask him not to do that. I feel that’s in him – that fight. He thrives on that and that gets his team-mates going as well.”
Roy Hodgson says telling his players to watch out for Costa would be “teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs”, and has backed England’s defenders to stand up to the challenge.
He said: “We give the players information about the opponents and their strengths, but we don’t go into that sort of detail where we say: ‘Be careful here’ because that would be teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs. Furthermore I’d be vilifying a player I have no reason to vilify.
“Costa for me is a good player, especially last year, he was very, very important to Chelsea. He is a very combative player, but we have combative centre-halves and they will just have to deal with that situation.
“I wouldn’t dream of suggesting he’s going to try underhand methods. Let’s hope he doesn’t and if he does we’re just going to have to deal with it and hope the referee deals with it like they do every week in the Premier League.”